WWE Alleges Attorney Improperly Solicited Wrestlers in Royalty Suit
On October 27, 2017, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) accused attorney Matthew Peterson of soliciting former wrestlers to join a royalty suit against WWE. WWE requested the court compel Peterson to provide documents and testimony that were previously denied under claims of privilege and improper instructions not to answer questions during the deposition. Specifically, WWE seeks a March 2016 email from Peterson to plaintiff Scott “Raven” Levy, and the same plaintiff to testify about a meeting with co-plaintiff Marcus “Buff” Bagwell.
The lawsuits filed by Peterson were the first suits filed that WWE performers claimed entitlement to royalties for their work on the WWE Network. The suit was filed in August 2016 and alleged that WWE failed to pay Bagwell and other wrestlers millions in royalties for pay-per-views and matches that are now on an on-demand streaming service part of WWE Network. In November 2016, Levy joined the suit. Then in December 2016, WWE moved the court to throw out the suit, claiming the wrestlers were not entitled to WWE Network related royalties. The wrestlers responded in January 2017 citing to a contractual reference to “technologies not yet created” they claim entitles them to royalties from the streaming service.
As for WWE’s claims, Bagwell already admitted on a publicly-recorded interview that he was solicited by Peterson to join the lawsuit. WWE claimed that Levy was solicited as well, with the solicitation in the form of the March 2016 email from Peterson analyzing Levy’s case. WWE argued the email is not privileged because it was a month before the two spoke and five months before a retainer agreement was signed. Further, WWE claimed the email impacted Levy’s testimony because he used it to refresh his memory on how he and Peterson came into contact. WWE also wanted the email to have the opportunity to cross examine Levy, challenge his credibility, and prove Peterson’s improper solicitation using discredited legal theories. WWE also argued Levy’s meeting with Peterson is not privileged because Levy’s wife was present at the meeting. Levy did not provide proof that his now ex-wife unofficially manages him, or that her presence was requested by counsel or necessary to representation for any reason.
Finally, WWE filed a counterclaim against Levy, claiming he violated a non-disparagement provision of an early contract lease. WWE claimed the violation occurred during a November 2015 interview on the podcast, Talk Is Jericho. In the interview, Levy accused Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO, of bribing a U.S. District Judge to dismiss a 2009 contract and unjust enrichment suit. WWE is fighting back against Levy and Bagwell’s allegations.